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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
About the Act
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located at § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

A public record is any writing or recording -- regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format -- that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of, a public body or its officers, employees, or agents in the transaction of public business.  All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.

The purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities.  In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that its provisions be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

Requester's Rights
  • You have the right to request to inspect and/or receive copies of public records, or both.
  • You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
  • If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in general district or circuit court to compel compliance with FOIA.  Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council for a non-binding advisory opinion.

Designated FOIA Officers
County of Orange
Michelle Williams

By mail:

County Administrator's Office
P. O. Box 111
Orange, Virginia 22960

In person:
County Administrator's Office
112 West Main Street
Orange, Virginia 22960

By fax: (540) 672-1679
By phone: (540) 672-3313
By email:

Circuit Court Clerk
Teresa Carroll

By mail:
Circuit Court Clerk's Office
P. O. Box 230
Orange, Virginia 22960

In person:
Circuit Court Clerk's Office
110 North Madison Road, Suite 300
Orange, Virginia 22960

By fax: (540) 672-2939
By phone: (540) 672-4030

Commissioner of the Revenue
Renee Pope

By mail:
Commissioner of the Revenue
P. O. Box 389
Orange, Virginia 22960

In person:
Commissioner of the Revenue
112 West Main Street
Orange, Virginia 22960

By fax: (540) 672-5461
By phone: (540) 672-4441

Commonwealth's Attorney
Diana O'Connell

By mail:
Commonwealth's Attorney
P. O. Box 310
Orange, Virginia 22960

In person:
Commonwealth's Attorney
110 North Madison Road, Suite 220
Orange, Virginia 22960

By fax: (540) 672-9095
By phone: (540) 672-4848

Mark Amos
Mike LaCasse

By mail:
Sheriff's Office
P. O. Box 445
Orange, Virginia 22960

In person:
Sheriff's Office
11350 Porter Road
Orange, Virginia 22960

By phone: (540) 672-1200

Dawn Watson

By mail:
Treasurer's Office
P. O. Box 469
Orange, Virginia 22960

In person:
Treasurer's Office
112 West Main Street
Orange, Virginia 22960

By fax: (540) 672-7437
By phone: (540) 672-2656

Submitting a FOIA Request
All FOIA requests should be directed to the appropriate FOIA Officers, as designated above.  The Orange County Information Request Form may be used to submit requests.

Making a Request for Records from Orange County
FOIA requests may be submitted by mail, fax, phone, email, or in person, in accordance with the designated FOIA Officers information contained above.  Requests are not required to be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.  Nevertheless, the County would prefer requests be submitted in writing.  From a practical perspective, it is helpful to submit the request in writing, which allows a record to be created and gives a clear statement of the records being requested.  However, the County cannot refuse to respond to your request if you elect to not put it in writing.

Your request must identify the records you are seeking with "reasonable specificity."  This does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; instead, it requires that you be specific enough so that the County can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.

You may only request existing records or documents.  FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to general questions about the work of the County and its public officers, officials, and employees, nor does it require the County to create a record that does not already exist.

If the County has questions about your request, please cooperate with staff's efforts to clarify the type of records that you are seeking, or to attempt to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to a large request.  Making a FOIA request is not intended to be an adversarial process, but staff may need to discuss your request with you to ensure understanding of the records requested.

Orange County shall comply with the following procedures for processing FOIA requests:

  1. FOIA requests should be directed to the appropriate FOIA Officer as listed above.  If a FOIA request is initially received by any department head, constitutional officer, or employee, other than a designated FOIA Officer, the request shall immediately be forwarded to the appropriate FOIA Officer for coordination of a response in accordance with law.
  2. After receipt of the request, the FOIA Officer will direct the request to the appropriate departments, officials, agencies, or authorities, as appropriate.
  3. If you have questions regarding accessing records from the County, please contact the appropriate FOIA Officer.  In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have.  The Council may be contacted by email at , or by phone at (804) 225-3056.

Orange County's Responsibility in Responding to Requests
The County must respond to your request within five (5) working days of receiving it.  "Day One" is considered the day after your request is received, per § 1-210(A) of the Code of Virginia.  The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.

The reason behind your request for public records from the County is irrelevant, and you do not have to state why you want the records before the County responds to your request.  FOIA does, however, allow the County to ask you to provide your name and legal address.

FOIA requires that the County make one of the following responses to your request within the five-day period:
  • Provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
  • Withhold all of the records that you have requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory exemption. If all of the records are being withheld, the County will send you a response in writing. That response will identify the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows the County to withhold the records.
  • Provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records. The County cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, the County may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and will provide you with the remainder of the record. The County will provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
  • Inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist.  However, if the County knows that another public body has the requested records, the County will include contact information for the other public body in the County’s response to you.
  • If it is practically impossible for the County to respond to your request within the five-day period, the County will state this in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible. This will allow the County seven (7) additional working days to respond to your request.

If you make a request for a very large number of records, and the County feels that it cannot provide the records to you within twelve (12) working days without disrupting its other organizational responsibilities, the County will make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the time for producing the records. If an agreement cannot be reached, the County may petition the circuit court for additional time to respond to your request.

Orange County will abide by the following procedures for responding to a FOIA request:
  1. All records for each request will be transmitted to the appropriate FOIA Officer for final coordination and the FOIA Officer will then transmit all records to the County Attorney for review.
  2. During review, the County Attorney will ensure that records required and/or allowed to be exempted, redacted, or withheld have been properly exempted, redacted, or withheld, which will be communicated in the response.
  3. The FOIA Officer will then transmit all records to the requester in the requested format, citing reasons for any records allowed to be exempted, redacted, or withheld.

If at any time during the process, there are any legal questions about the records, responsiveness, exemptions, or withholding or redaction of records, employees shall consult with the County Attorney.

Delays in Responding to a FOIA Request
If staff needs clarification regarding a FOIA request, and the ambiguity can be cleared up by communication with the requester, responding personnel should contact the requester.

The FOIA Officer shall communicate the need for an extension in writing, invoking the statutory additional seven (7) working days.

If greater than seven (7) working days is necessary, the FOIA Officer and responding personnel shall try to reach a reasonable agreement with the requester for more time. If a reasonable agreement cannot be reached, the FOIA Officer and responding personnel shall contact the County Attorney regarding filing a petition with the circuit court for additional time.

See the section below about costs and deposits with regard to further possible delays in responding.

Costs Associated with FOIA Requests
A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.

You may have to pay for the records that you request from Orange County. FOIA allows the County to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. This would include items such as personnel time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, postage, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It cannot include general overhead costs.

If the County estimates that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, the County will require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five (5) days that the County has to respond to your request does not include the time between when the County asks for a deposit and when you respond.

All deposits shall be paid by cash, check, or money order made payable to Orange County and delivered to the FOIA Officer.  Checks and money orders will be held and only deposited once the request is complete. Any outstanding balance due must be paid before or at the time the responding records are released. Any balance remaining from the deposit shall be returned to the requester.

You may request that the County estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested. This will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs. The statutory time limits provided do not begin to run until you give the County permission to proceed, approving the estimate or by paying the deposit, as required above.

If you owe the County money from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than thirty (30) days, Orange County may require payment of the past due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.

The time fee charged for responses shall be based upon the annualized County pay rate for the particular individual(s) preparing a response to a FOIA request.  The County will divide the total of the annualized pay rate for the individual by 2,080 hours, to determine each hourly rate to be charged for responding to a FOIA request.

The County will take all reasonable precautions to keep personnel time and costs to a minimum, including using lower paid personnel capable of retrieving records to respond to a request. However, in situations where a particular individual is required to search through his/her own email and files contained on his/her individual County computer or other device, it shall not be unreasonable for that individual to retrieve the requested records and charge a FOIA response fee corresponding to his/her salary. In some cases, it may be necessary for multiple personnel to participate in responding to a FOIA request.

See the full FOIA Fee Schedule for additional information.

Commonly Used Exemptions
The Code of Virginia allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Orange County commonly withholds records subject to the following exemptions:
  • Personnel records (§ 2.2-3705.1 (1))
  • Records subject to attorney-client privilege (§ 2.2-3705.1 (2)) or attorney work product (§ 2.2-3705.1 (3))
  • Vendor proprietary information (§ 2.2-3705.1 (6))
  • Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded (§ 2.2-3705.1 (12))
  • For a full list of possible exemptions, see Virginia Code § 2.2-3705.1 et seq.

FOIA Advisory Council
Effective July 1, 2017, "Any county or city, and any town with a population of more than 250, shall post a link on its official public government website to the online public comment form on the Freedom of Information Advisory Council's website to enable any requester to comment on the quality of assistance provided to the requester by the public body."

To access the FOIA Advisory Council's website, click here.

To obtain a copy of the Public Comment Form to submit regarding your response from Orange County, click "Forms and Sample Letters" and download the form, which is submitted directly to the FOIA Advisory Council.